This is one of those scary Melbourne summer days.
even if you’ve grown up in australian heat, the ferocity of it on days like today is still a surprise. has it ever been this hot before? (it has). how did we survive it then?
It’s 4.45 in the afternoon, 42 degrees outside, and still getting warmer.
melbourne’s not built for heat. This is heat that’s so strong it feels like the top layer of your skin is lifting off even when you’re standing in the shade. It’s so pervasive that the walls of the house – the furniture, the cushions, the carpets – are all hot to touch, and they’ll stay this way for days. It’s hard to know whether the smell outside is smoke drifting from the bushfires a hundred kilometres away, or whether it’s an illusion of smoke, a smell-by-association – a day like this, following another day like this that ended with lightning storms, invariably means there will be fires. And there are.
bushfires are frightening – the archetypal Australian nightmare. i remember lying in bed as a child, watching a bushfire come over the hills surrounding adelaide. it was a few kilometres – and a lot of houses – away from us. we were in no danger, but the ferocious wall of flame came so quickly over the hill, bringing an oppressive smoke that made breathing hard, that it’s still the vivid stuff of nightmares. Two of the fires in victoria are burning in inaccessible areas. all firefighters can do is fight the fire with fire – to control-burn in the places where they think the fire will go, so the fire will have nothing to burn when it gets there. it’s risky, especially on days of unpredictable, high winds (like today). but as i write this, there are towns through western victoria and Gippsland that are in direct line of the fires. what else can they do?
every summer Australia gets more scars from bushfires. blackened scenery, headlines in papers with graphic images of burnt out homes, cars, firetrucks. the country side grows back in its irrepressible cycle. it’s unfair to transfer that clich?? onto the burnt communities that grieve the loss of houses, livelihoods, promise, people.
it’s still 42 degrees outside. no sign yet of a cool change.
Update: Fire destroys homes in Anakie